Art is a primal urge. At least for me. It is something, no matter how chaotic life gets, I must keep creating, and sometimes as things in life get even more chaotic, I must create more. When everything is up in the air, I just can’t wait for the pieces to fall so I can collect the bits and make a beautiful chaos collage! But really, is anything ever settled? Do the pieces ever stop falling? I sweep the floor everyday and an hour later it is covered again…Oh, here I’m just talking about life with two kids. No, here I am talking about life. Life is art.
So here I am, making art in Southern New Hampshire surrounded by pine trees, making stuff some would call art. Does anyone care? And why was I given the brain of an artist instead of a chemist, a neuroscientist, or an engineer? I sure as hell would have made more money by now. But here I am, talking to the pine trees, that I imagine have personalities, and doing the best I can with what I’ve been given. In my garage, I spray paint on nine new canvases, watching as shiny droplets of hot pink splatter and settle. I am learning to embrace this loss of total control. I can point the can, but I cannot make the paint fall. Original plans are abandoned as one movement or decision leads to another; but usually the surprise is better than the original thought. Art is a series of leaps of faith. Art is life.
My sheer joy is then interrupted with a single intrusive thought: Why am I doing this again? Luckily, I am able to quickly dispel this uninvited guest in my head, crashing my personal painting party. Because art is essential. It is as essential now as it was since the beginning of humanity. To tell a story. To leave one’s mark, as if to say. “I am here”…
(Hand stencils. Cueva de los manos, Santa Cruz province in Argentina…Art is a primal urge.)
I may not be able to control which direction the wind blows the paint, I think, but wherever it blows me, there will still be a piece of me attached to this canvas. Then I am reminded of the quote often recited by a favorite professor and mentor of mine, Maestro Bodlak:
“Art is not something you do on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, and it is not a career; art is a way of life as essential as breathing.” –Paul Darrow
Maestro Bodlak was an artist and flamenco guitar player whose passion for art and life was contagious. He may have left this earth too soon, but he undoubtedly left his mark, his “I am here” in the minds of all those he influenced. For a moment I feel his presence, along with all the other creatives who have ever touched my life.
I am a tiny branch connected to a long line of artists. The tree we come from is large and twisted and knotted. It grows in a place far away from the rest, as some of us can never quite fit into this world… because we are here to create a new one. Our art is the unique and precious fruit that we bear.
My attention shifts back to my paintings. Finally, I lay out all nine canvases in three rows of three. I search for the nearest pointed object, still not knowing why (as sometimes instinct knows what it is doing far before the head catches up to it) and I inscribe into the center painting: I am still going to be here…
(My first experiment with spray paint for Paper Dolls series, 2016).
Lisa K. Salerno is an Art Writer with the London-based publication Niji Magazine, and a regular Art Columnist at Inigo Online. Her art and writing has also been featured in the Autism Speaks website, the Artful Vagabond, The Connecticut River Review and in several other online and print publications.